Nizar Trabelsi found not guilty of plotting terrorism with Osama bin Laden


WASHINGTON (AP) — In a rare and shocking development, an accused foreign Islamic terrorist was found not guilty Friday by a jury in federal court after a trial on charges of conspiring with Osama bin Laden to carry out a suicide bombing against Americans in Europe two decades ago, his lawyer said.

Nizar Trabelsi, a former Tunisian professional soccer star, was extradited to the United States in 2013 to face charges. The indictment alleges that he met personally in the spring of 2001 with bin Laden to volunteer for a suicide bomb attack on US interests.

Preparations unfolded over the next few months, according to the indictment, and Trabelsi allegedly obtained chemicals in Europe and then joined others to explore a potential target: a military facility that was used by the United States and the United States Air Force. Joined.

Nizar Trabelsi in Wuppertal, Germany, in 1992, when he was playing for the German soccer club Wuppertaler Sport Verein.Horstmueller / AP file

According to the indictment, Trabelsi was living in Germany in 2000, when he met with other conspirators and made arrangements to travel to Afghanistan to train for jihad.

In the spring of 2001, the prosecution alleges, he met with bin Laden in Afghanistan and offered to carry out a suicide bombing. The indictment says she then spoke with Muhammed Atef, a senior al Qaeda member and top military planner, under bin Laden’s direction. The indictment says that he met with other people with whom he was to form a cell in order to carry out a suicide attack.

Trabelsi and other conspirators allegedly discussed various possible targets for a suicide bomb attack, and he received training on how to plant explosives. In June 2001, the indictment says, Trabelsi traveled to Pakistan, where he obtained money from an al Qaeda associate to use in carrying out his mission. The following month, he rented an apartment in Brussels. While in Belgium, Trabelsi purchased quantities of chemicals for use in the manufacture of a 1,000-kilogram bomb, the indictment alleges. He then traveled at night with conspirators to scout the military base, the indictment says.

During the trial, his lawyers argued that he was an innocent bystander caught up in the excesses of the American reaction after the 9/11 attacks. Lawyer Sabrina Shroff had insisted that Trabelsi «is not a terrorist, and we hope that the evidence shows exactly that,» according to Court news service.

She argued that a confession she made to Belgian authorities on which the US charges were based was false.

“We all agree that he was born in Tunisia, he is a good soccer player and he is a non-stop talker who made statement after statement after statement to the Belgian authorities,” Shroff said in his opening statement. «Most of his statements, if not all, could not be objectively substantiated.»

Trabelsi He was sentenced in Belgium in 2003 for planning to attack the Kleine-Brogel airbase, where US military personnel are stationed. He served a 10-year sentence before Belgium extradited him to the United States, despite the European Court of Human Rights ruling that it should not be sent to the other side of the Atlantic.

A Justice Department official told NBC News on Friday that Trabelsi will be in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement before being sent back to Belgium.

The official declined to comment further.

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